Needless to say, cable TV is expensive, and not getting any cheaper. As such, there’s a lot of people nowadays engaging in cord cutting to save money. I thus wondered: what streaming services would some of our favorite cartoon characters opt for, if ditching (or avoiding in the first place) cable TV?
Below are my guesses for various characters, using information from Consumer Reports, CNet, and various streaming services; said characters (hopefully) represent different economic statuses/lifestyles. Assumptions include: real-world streaming services (versus whatever exists in-universe); no more than three or four streaming services used; and (unless indicated) they live in an area with decent over-the-air digital TV reception.
While I wrote this for fun, I suppose this post might also might be useful for those looking for real-life streaming service suggestions?
The Fox family (FoxTrot)
Situation: Upper middle class suburban family; vastly differing TV tastes
The Fox family of Bill Amend’s long-running comic strip “FoxTrot” seem pretty comfortable. Aside from a turn-of-the-millennium plot about Roger quitting his job, concerns about money don’t seem to come up often. Still, Roger and Andy have done some (often bizarre) things to save money, or alter their family’s TV habits.
TV-wise: Roger and Peter are big sports fans (particularly football); Paige likes reality shows and sitcoms (one strip has her streaming “Cake Wars” on Netflix); Andy likes watching news, political discussion roundtables, soap operas (in one storyline), and “Downton Abbey”; and Jason’s obsessed with “Star Trek” and (to Andy’s consternation) “Game of Thrones,” but otherwise doesn’t seem to have specific TV tastes (he seems more obsessed with gaming).
- YouTube TV ($50/mo.). YouTube has branched out into offering a full-fledged cable TV-replacement service. ESPN, CNN, Cartoon Network, and other basic cable staples are offered (save for MTV or Nickelodeon, but blame Viacom for that). YouTube TV also offers a cloud-based DVR and local channels, with PBS soon to be added. (I recall one strip’s punchline showing the family gets mediocre over-the-air TV reception, thus a service offering local channels.)
- Netflix ($13/mo. for HD tier). The entire Fox family seem to be interested in Netflix. One strip has Roger and Andy watching “House of Cards,” while another has Peter and Paige wanting to watch “Cake Wars.”
- PBS Passport ($5/mo. or $60/year). A donation of $5/month or $60/year to your local PBS affiliate gives you access to Passport, PBS’ on-demand service. Passport offers multiple seasons on tons of shows, from “Nova” to “Masterpiece.” Someone like Andy’s certainly a PBS donor; Peter also watched “Downton Abbey” with her in one strip.
- Disney+ ($7/month). Imagine Disney+ would be an easy sell to the Fox household: it’s half the price of HBO; doesn’t carry R-rated material (so no fights over “Game of Thrones”); and carries two of Jason’s favorite franchises, “Star Wars” and the Marvel superheroes.
- Total: $75
The Simpsons family (The Simpsons)
Situation: Working-class/middle class suburban family; traditional TV tastes
While the Simpsons often engage in various wacky money-making schemes, new jobs, etc., their default situation’s always that of a working-class/middle class family. They’re also famous for A) Homer’s obsession with watching TV and B) their traditional rabbit-ears antenna TV. One of my favorite episodes is the second season one where they pirate cable.
TV-wise, their viewing tastes fit that of being, well, a show dating from the Bush Senior administration. Homer watches sitcoms, cop shows, and the like, though football and bowling seem to be favorites; Marge likes soap operas; and the kids like old-school-style slapstick cartoons (“Itchy and Scratchy”).
- Sling TV (Orange) ($25/mo.). Sling TV offers a generic basic cable-like package of channels. The Orange tier includes ESPN, HGTV, Cartoon Network, and other channels.
- Netflix ($13/mo.). Netflix works as a catch-all service.
- PBS Kids (free). Something for Maggie to watch.
- Pluto TV, Crackle, and Tubi (free). Random free stuff to watch.
- An antenna (free).
- Total: $38
Clark Kent and Lois Lane (Superman)
Situation: Very busy reporters for a “great metropolitan newspaper”; probably not big TV watchers
Between Lois Lane and Clark Kent’s jobs as the top reporters at the “Daily Planet,” on top of Clark’s “side job” (as Superman), they likely aren’t big TV watchers. Off the top of my head, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen Lois or Clark watching TV for reasons not job- or breaking news-related.
- Sling TV (Orange) ($25/mo.). For CNN.
- Netflix ($13/mo.). For the rare times they do want to watch TV for relaxation. Netflix and Sling TV also offer cartoons for their son in current comics continuity, Jonathan Kent, to watch.
- CBSN (free). CBS offers a free 24 hour streaming news service.
- An antenna (free).
- Total: $38
Peter Parker and Aunt May (Spider-Man)
Situation: Freelance photographer living with his elderly aunt; probably-tight media budget
While the comics have evolved over the decades, spin-off media (TV shows, movies) still assume Peter’s living at home with his elderly Aunt May. Famously, Peter’s often broke, for various reasons (J. Jonah Jameson’s pay rates, Aunt May’s medical problems, etc.).
- Netflix ($13/mo.) A catch-all service for Peter and Aunt May.
- PBS Passport ($5/mo.). Peter’s interested in science, so would probably enjoy “Nova”; Aunt May would feel donating to public television’s a nice thing to do; finally, Passport’s inexpensive.
- CBSN (free). A free news streaming service. CBSN also offers live streaming of news from CBS’ flagship New York affiliate. Probably useful for a superhero operating in the nation’s largest city?
- An antenna (free).
- Total: $18
The Parkers (AJ & Magnus)
Middle-class suburban family; budget-conscious, geeky interests
The comic strip “AJ & Magnus” presents grade-schooler AJ, his dog Magnus, and his two Dads (Alex and John, or “Dad” and “Pop” respectively). Pop’s the main breadwinner, while Dad’s a stay-at-home, well, dad. Dad’s also budget-conscious, though not to a penny-pinching degree.
Other than Pop’s interest in football, the family’s interests skew on the geeky side of things. The family enjoys cosplay for Halloween/other occasions; they all like superheroes (and superhero comics); AJ and Pop like video games; and Dad and Pop argued once over which was better, “Star Trek” or “Star Wars.” The same goes for TV: superheroes; cartoons; and sci-fi and horror. AJ also enjoys watching nature documentaries (keeping with an interest in the outdoors).
- Sling TV (Blue) ($25/mo.). Blue doesn’t carry ESPN, but it does offer BBC America (home of “Doctor Who”), SyFy, National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Cartoon Network, HGTV, and even Fox/NBC in some markets.
- Disney+ ($7/mo.). For “Star Wars” and the Marvel superheroes, plus Disney’s animated fare.
- Netflix ($13/mo.). Again, a catch-all, plus it offers “Star Trek.” I also suspect the Parkers would be fans of the “She-Ra” reboot.
- Pluto TV (free). Pluto TV offers a bunch of free streaming content, including a “channel” dedicated to Logo (a LGBTQ-oriented cable channel).
- An antenna (free). Fortunately, NFL football is mainly carried on over-the-air TV.
- Total: $45
Nancy Whitehead and Doreen Green (Squirrel Girl)
Situation: College students; presumably college student media tastes/budget
When Doreen isn’t fighting crime as Squirrel Girl, she’s a computer science major at Empire State University (the same school Peter Parker attended). As such, while Doreen and Nancy are busy, they might also want to cash in their student discounts on a streaming service or two. (Note I’m assuming they didn’t get any “discounts” from Doreen’s pal, Tony Stark.)
- Amazon Prime Student (free for six months, then $6.49/month). Prime offers a student discount rate for everything Prime provides (on-demand streaming, two-day shipping, etc.). That said, student Prime accounts can’t be shared (though for streaming purposes onto a single TV, this wouldn’t matter).
- Netflix ($13/mo.). Catch-all service. Netflix doesn’t offer a student discount, however.
- Basic cable TV (free with tuition). They live in the university dorms; most dorms (or at least the one at the school I went to) offer students free basic cable as part of housing costs. Thus, it’s one exception on this otherwise “avoiding cable TV” list.
- Total: $19.49